an excerpt

Chapter One

Sion took a last look at his reflection. It hadn't taken much magic to change his appearance to take on Edwin Silverleaf aspects. He didn't even have to mask the sweep of his pointed ears.

"I'm sure you're beautiful. Let's get moving, you peacock," a masculine voice called from the other room.

Sion huffed as he walked into the hotel suite's living room. His son, Ioan, was dressed like a Catholic priest, a cane in his hand. Bishop from Dogs: Bullets and Carnage was a natural choice for Ioan, a blind man cosplaying a blind manga character. Of course, no one at the anime con would know that Ioan was his son. Both appeared to be twenty-something so no one would believe the truth of their relationship. Because they usually looked roughly the same age, Sion referred to Ioan as his brother when amongst the humans. His son was already a couple of hundred years old, as hard as that occasionally was for Sion to wrap his head around.

"You are so impatient," Sion said, checking his wallet before sliding it into the brown pants of his Silverleaf costume.

He was glad to have company at the convention. Sion figured none of his friends would want to dress up as a Japanese animation character with him, but he couldn't help himself. He found humans infinitely fascinating. His companions back in Alfheim couldn't fathom why one of their crown princes wanted to spend his days on Earth. Sion wished they could see humans the way he did. Yes, they could be violent and unreasonable, but they were also kind and crazy and that was what he adored so much about them.

Ioan liked Homo sapiens as much as his father did and enjoyed listening to anime. Sion read him any manga that hadn't been turned into an anime, happy to be able to spend time with his son. He had missed out on Ioan's childhood after Ioan had been kidnapped as a babe. Years of Drow torture had left scars, inside and out, and robbed Ioan of his sight.

Some days, Sion simply didn't grasp the unending animosity. No one could even remember what had started the war between the two fey factions. The origin stretched so far back that not even the elves with their long lifespans could account for the first blow landed or why. Their war had even bled through to this world. The humans knew of it, had worked it into their myths and legends. The people in the British Isles knew them as the Seelie and Unseelie courts. The Germans and the Norse called them the Dokkalfar, or sometimes the Svartalfar and Lj├│salfar. Dark and Light, evil and good, though Sion knew enough to understand those terms were utterly dependent on one's point of view. Surely the Drow, members of the Dokkalfar, considered themselves in the right. On the other hand, for the most part the light elves didn't torture innocent children like the Dokkalfar had done to Ioan.

Letting thoughts of war trickle out of his mind, Sion tied off the braid he wore his hair in, content that his Edwin Silverleaf costume was perfect. He and Ioan both loved Crossed Swords and, since both he and Edwin Silverleaf were elves, it seemed like a natural character to cosplay. Besides, he enjoyed the character interactions between Edwin and Aidan Cross, the half-elf fire mage, and Noriko Midorikawa, the woman-warrior who was torn between the two men.

Sion hoped to find an Aidan or Noriko for a photo shoot. If he were lucky, there would be older cosplayers in the crowd. While Elfin and human ages couldn't really be compared, Sion would never take advantage of the truly young. Usually, there were at least a handful of anime fans old enough to drink. Hopefully, he could find a playmate. Male, female, it was all good to Sion.

"Are you finally ready?" Ioan tapped his cane on the floor.

"Hold on." He opened Ioan's shirt a bit, just enough to let the metal collar underneath peek through to complete the outfit. "Now we're ready. I'll take you to the panels then go hit the dealers' room myself."

Ioan nodded. The blind elf wasn't a collector of anything but the anime DVDs. He could find his way around panels on early animation styles, experience Japanese culture through manga and cooking with bentos or whatever else the panel coordinators came up with this time. Sion had less interest in that. He liked to be in the dealers' room picking up more crap he didn't really need but truly wanted. He had a whole summer castle stuffed with human memorabilia from at least two centuries, if not more. "Just come get me when it's time for the costume parade."

"Naturally." Sion led his son to the elevator, anticipation racing through him. This was going to be a fun weekend.


Roy Connolly knew his friends would probably get a good laugh if they could see him now. Usually, his partner in Columbus's homicide division, Amelia, accompanied him to conventions, but her daughter was sick, and she'd bowed out. That hadn't stopped him from putting on his Aidan Cross costume and heading to the hotel. He might be getting long in the tooth for this, but he still enjoyed it.

So many con goers packed the dealers' room, Roy wasn't sure there was enough oxygen to go around. He slowly made his way through, considering prices, deciding what he might really want to get and what he thought he could live without. He already had Pocky and mochi for Amelia's daughter, but wasn't sure what his partner would like more: Noriko's necklace or a Crossed Swords keychain.

"Oh my god! Look at you two!" A teen dressed up out of Naruto shrieked. "Can I have a picture?"

It took Roy a moment to realize she meant him. He turned to see who the other half of the 'two' might be and found himself gazing down into the eyes of an Edwin Silverleaf cosplayer holding a Crossed Swords figurine. Wow, his eyes are amazing. The contacts are even the right shade of amber. Those slit-pupiled eyes blinked, then 'Edwin' smiled.

Edwin looked at the girl and jerked a thumb at Roy. "You want me to take a picture with him? Do you know how much of a pain in the butt he is?"

"Me?" Roy cried, falling right into Cross and Silverleaf's usual banter. "Look who's talking, runt." The term nearly applied. This Edwin was as short as the character should be.

"See what I mean?" Edwin told the girl to her delight. "Do you even know how to smile, Cross?"

"To make the women swoon," Roy replied, noticing a crowd had formed to watch them. Truth was though, he'd rather make this man swoon with a smile.

"Be nice, you two," a slightly overweight Noriko cosplayer said, sauntering over to them.

Edwin stepped away from the vendors, surrendering the action figure. The crowd pushed back around Roy, Noriko and Edwin clearing some space, probably hoping for more roleplaying if Roy knew anything about con goers. "But Nori..."

"Don't whine." She wagged a finger at him.

"You need to be in the picture, too," the girl said, waving to Noriko.

Edwin put his arms around Roy and Noriko, dragging them against his sides for the picture. Under the young teen's direction, 'Edwin' and Roy mugged for the camera then took their turns with Noriko as the crowd around them continued to gather. This was the real fun of the anime cons, the role-playing and the shopping, but sometimes it went a little too far. Several of the girls were entreating him and Edwin to kiss. Roy gazed at Edwin and he was beyond tempted.

Something sparked in Edwin's eyes and the young man stood on tiptoe, obviously willing to give the girls a picture of a lifetime. Roy backed away, holding up his hands. "Sorry, girls. We're clogging up the dealers' room."

"Aw, come on. Aidan and Edwin are so hot," one of the girls complained.

"I'm more of a canon guy, sorry," Roy said, smiling at Edwin and Noriko. "And I have some panels I want to get to."

He shook himself free of the girls and decided he'd be better off if he came back to the dealers' room in ten minutes once the teens found someone new to hound. Roy wondered if coming without Amelia was a good idea. She usually reined him in before he got too carried away.

"Wait up," someone called. Roy turned to see Edwin heading his way. "I wanted to talk to you if you don't mind."

"Sure," Roy replied. "I was just getting some air. The dealers' rooms can be stuffy."

Edwin nodded. "If you're not going back in right away, I was wondering if you wanted to go up to the Skyline Lounge? Sometimes you just need a break from the teenagers."

"Yeah, I know what you mean." Roy swept his gaze over Edwin's lean body. "Sure. I'm Roy by the way." He tapped his name tag.

"Sion," Edwin said, sticking out his hand.

"Nice to meet you, Sion." Roy shook Sion's hand.

"Same here."

They headed for the elevator. Sion swiveled, watching a young man with raven hair pass by. A hint of jealousy bubbled up in Roy, but then Sion turned back with a little shake of his head. Whatever it was that had caught the small blond's attention didn't seem to be pleasant.

Sion pressed the button and as luck would have it, a car arrived quickly and was empty. They went in and Sion thumbed the button for floor eighteen. "Sorry if I got a little carried away during the photo shoot. I wasn't thinking when they were encouraging the slash there." He offered up a lopsided grin. "I should have realized you probably weren't into kissing random strangers."

"It wasn't that, well a little," Roy admitted, trying not to think about what he had passed up. "I'm a detective, and the police still aren't that forward thinking about that sort of thing. Getting better, but still." He shrugged. "All I could see were those pictures ending up all over the net, especially if we had kissed. I would not want to have to explain that at work, which I suppose is a bit paranoid."

"No, no, I don't blame you." Sion waved a hand, his odd eyes sweeping over Roy, lingering just a bit too long on his lips. "I'm not offended."

"Good...because I really wanted to kiss you, and I knew that would be trouble for me," Roy said, rubbing a hand over his face. Had he really just said that?

Sion smirked. "Do you still want to? We have a floor or two--"

Roy swallowed down the rest of that sentence, acting on impulse, sealing his lips over Sion's. He hadn't been this rash since college. If Sion was startled, Roy couldn't tell from the way he kissed. The smaller man's tongue swept Roy's mouth. Cradling Sion's head, Roy could feel the fake pointed ears. They felt so warm and alive. How had Sion managed that bit of cosplay?

They broke apart when the elevator dinged and the doors slid open. Walking to the bar as if they hadn't just about fallen to the elevator floor to screw right there, they placed an order for a couple of beers then went and sat at a table near the huge glass panes, offering up the skyline as promised in the lounge name. At this early hour, it was nearly empty.

"Um, I really don't do things like that," Roy said, looking out the window as if it could hide his blush. "I'm not the impulsive type."

"I am," Sion said. "I'm impulsive enough to invite you upstairs to my room after this beer."

Roy's mouth went dry. The beer did nothing to wet it. "I don't usually do one-night stands."

"I suspected that would be your answer, but I had to ask."

"I want to go up." Roy set his beer aside. He thirsted for another kiss, even if he wouldn't take one in public.

Sion took a long swig. "I'm done...oh, crap."


The blond pointed to his watch. "I'm sorry, but I have something to do first. Isn't that rude of me? I nearly forgot Ioan."

"Ioan?" Roy felt his lust drop into an icy pit deep inside him.

"My brother," Sion said. "I promised I'd go with him to the costume parade and that's pretty soon. However, if you're interested in delaying just a bit..."

Roy bobbed his head. "Yes, but couldn't you just text him that you're going to a panel or something?" He hated being so needy.

"My brother is blind, and he really wanted to be in the parade. He may have found someone to go with, but I can't just run out on him. Don't worry, he wants to go the costume dance, too, so we'll have hours after the parade."

"Not a problem. The parade could be fun," Roy said. "I wouldn't want you to leave your brother in a lurch."

"That'll teach me to not pay attention. I wouldn't have come up here had I realized." Sion shrugged. "But then I would have missed out on a most interesting elevator ride."

Roy's face reddened. "Let's go find your brother." He tried to sneak out of the bar without looking like an embarrassed kid, but from the way Sion was watching his butt, the detective doubted the blond even noticed his blush. "You're both staying at the hotel so I'm assuming you're not from around here." That statement alone probably should have been a warning to not get involved. What did he need with someone who wouldn't be staying around? Still, why not have a little fun? Why couldn't it just be about some good, casual sex?

"I'm here as the artist in residence this year at the local university," Sion said. "We're both from Wales."

"That would explain the accent and the odd spelling for Sean." Roy grinned, pointing to Sion's name tag.

"Odd is a matter of perspective," Sion replied, getting back on the elevator. He stole a quick kiss but backed off, acting so very nonchalant when the elevator stopped again and a hapless older couple got on. His and Sion's costumes seemed to be cause for consternation. "I left Ioan in one of the conference rooms. Hopefully, he should still be there. If not, I'll call him. He's the independent type, but he probably wouldn't have headed to the parade without me."

"That's fine. Did you want me to meet him? I mean, does he know..." Roy let that thought die. Meeting the family was hard enough in an established relationship. Surely it was an unnecessary complication for this situation?

"That I like men and women? Oh, he knows. Ioan prefers the ladies, just in case you were worried I was going to suggest something uh, more advanced." Sion's sheepish smile was so incredibly endearing.

"I'm definitely not ready for that," Roy admitted, following Sion into a conference room, well aware they were garnering appreciative looks for their costuming.

"Generally, not something I expect of new friends. Ah, there he is." Sion pointed to a pale-haired young man in a priest's outfit talking to a young woman who filled out her costume in all the right ways. "Ioan!"

The young man turned and Roy saw his milky eyes, the one feature marring an otherwise very handsome face. "Sion, meet Evie. We were talking about how voice actors have improved since the eighties but still have so much further to go. Evie, this is my brother, Sion." Ioan canted his head toward Roy. "And it sounds like he has someone with him."

"Nice to meet you, Evie, and I do. Roy, this is my brother, Ioan."

"Pleasure to meet you." Ioan stuck out a hand and Roy took it. "Guess it's time to head to the costume parade."

"You don't mind if I come along, do you?" Evie asked. "Ioan and I were planning on going down the block afterward for dinner. The hotel restaurant is too overpriced. You could come if you wanted."

"By all means, come along to the parade. Roy is as well, but I'll pass on dinner, thanks anyhow," Sion said, and Roy suspected no one, not even Ioan missed how relieved Evie was not to have to them butting in on what she had planned for Ioan. "I have plans."

Ioan cocked his eyebrows up. "I see. Lead the way, brother. You are going to participate in the parade, right?"

"Oh, all three of you have to, your costumes are so good," Evie said.

"I hadn't planned on it," Roy said, thinking with his luck the parade would be recorded for the news or something.

"Please," she wheedled.

In the end, all four of them entered the contest. Roy just knew he would regret this. Sure enough, there were news cameras getting the sound bite for the evening news since the con goers plugged a ton of money into the area each and every year. He considered backing out, wondering what Sion would make of that when the whole thing came to a halt as someone started screaming.

Roy raced in the direction of the shouts, surprised that Sion went with him. Behind the stage, two girls shrieked. It took Roy a second to see a pair of feet sticking out from behind some of the lighting cable. He cautiously investigated, stunned by what he saw. A very dead Edwin Silverleaf, his throat cut.

"Sion, get everyone back. I need to call this in," he said in a tight whisper. Suddenly being seen in his costume seemed like a very petty worry.